Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chelsea Market Seeks Approval For Huge Rooftop Addition

Community groups, however, are crying foul as the building’s owner, Jamestown Property, seeks city approval for the massive new construction project.

Among the Chelsea Market shops selling cheese, butchered meats and exotic olive oils are reminders of the building's industrial past, as well as a multimedia nod to its possible future.

Exhibited along an indoor promenade are ads for the Oreo cookies once made there and an architectural model and accompanying video for a proposed 330,000-square-foot office and hotel expansion that the building's owner wants to construct atop the roof.

Last week, the clock started on the city-review process required for the extension. Owner Jamestown Property insists the success of Chelsea Market in recent years helped the neighborhood blossom into a vibrant tech center, and that enlarging the property is needed now to spur more of the same.

Community groups, however, are vowing to block the proposal to add new space that they contend is unnecessary and fear will only add to the area's congestion. Yet both sides agree on the huge importance of the trendy ground-floor retail market, which continues to draw people from near and far.

Atlanta-based Jamestown, which owns properties all over the country, is bolstering its local portfolio with a deal to buy 325 Hudson St. for an estimated $120 million.

The Chelsea Market’s nearly 1 million square feet of office space is full, with tenants that include the Food Network and Google. Jamestown Property has spent large sums attracting just the sort of companies increasingly seen as vital to the city's future.

Beyond making improvements in the market, Jamestown has put satellite dishes and cooling towers on the roof, and even installed dog-friendly staircases to make it easier for people to bring their pets to work.

 Unable to accommodate any more tenants, Jamestown wants to expand the building itself, adding as many as 11 stories. That would permit the total tenant-employee head count to grow by about a third, to 4,000. The proposed 125-room hotel would accommodate the tourists already flooding the neighborhood.

Detractors counter that with so much vacant space available in the city, there's no need to bulk up what is already one of Chelsea's largest properties. The low-slung building takes up the entire block between Ninth and Tenth avenues and West 14th and West 15th streets.

The fate of the proposal will be decided by the City Council—which may make for interesting political theater, since the market sits in the district of a likely mayoral candidate, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Last year, Jamestown agreed to various adjustments in its plan, including reducing the height by 20 feet. More compromises are expected.

Much has changed in the nine years since Jamestown bought a 75% stake in Chelsea Market. Industrial tenants like Rose Brand Theatrical Canvas are gone, replaced by those tech companies drawn by the relatively cheap rents upstairs and the retail operation downstairs.